Some Gaming Reviews: SimCity, Bioshock Infinite

First, an update on SimCity.  I am a huge SimCity series fan from way back.  I was excited by the new release, which turned out to be a total disaster.  I wrote several weeks ago about the horrendous decision to make SimCity an always-online game, which led on day 1 to the game being unplayable for most because of server problems and overloads at EA.

Since that time, they have (mostly) fixed the server overload issues and I have been able to play.  Sort of.  The game is beautiful and the interface is pretty nice.  And the game tantalizing retains many of the elements that made the previous games so compelling to some of us.  But in the end, the game is a fail.

First, it is full of bugs.  One horrible bug ensures that over time, almost every city you build will crash on the online server.  The only solution is to accept a rollback to an earlier state, though every once in a while this leads to a total city loss.

Beyond that, almost every element of the game is broken.  Sims will suddenly stop going to school, and complain about there being no education when an empty school is right across the street.  City water tables can be drained in a matter of months, making a city unplayable -- one can avoid this only by putting their sewer plant right by their water supply.  Certain city specializations added to the game, like gambling, don't work right.   Meteor showers cities every few months and can't be turned off.  etc. etc.

It may be that this game will be playable in 6 months or so, but even then I fear that the EA team has simplified the game so much and removed so many options to appeal to the mass market XBOX set that the wonky complexity many of us enjoyed in early games will never be there.  In particular, city size is limited such that in about 20 minutes of play I can completely fill the city space.  All that one can even do with the game after that is just sit and watch density increase and expand a fire station or two as the population grows.  In fact, a lot of the game for me runs unattended, since EA had to turn off the fast speed mode.  The city now needs to just run for hours for anything to happen, so I resorted to leaving it on in the other room and checking back on it every hour or two.

Oh, and by the way.  The highly touted multiplayer features are a bad joke.  Someone in the business department told developers that the game had to be online for piracy protection, and told them to go develop some game features that justified this decision so they could tell users that the online requirement was really for their benefit and not for copy protection.  Well, they failed.

Bioshock Infinite.   I don't play a lot of first person-shooter style role-playing games, but my son talked me into playing the new Bioshock.  He has played a lot of this genre (e.g. the Mass Effect series) and said that this was the best he had ever played.  This evaluation may be in part due to his fascination with strange dystopic visions of society, because we certainly get one in this game (as in each of the Bioshock series).

I am not every far into it but I will say that is a fun experience.  So far I would say it was less of a game and more of an immersive novel -- WTF is this place I am in and what is going on.   The environment is really fascinating to explore.  I am still trying to figure out the back story, but piecing it together is a fun process.  Already I have been to several memorable locations.


  1. norse:

    I have to admit that I never quite enjoyed Bioshock as much as I thought I would (based on my fond memories of System Shock), but if you find yourself enjoying the adventure/shooter crossover genre, the Dark Siders games (I & II) are phenomenal in the way they mesh storytelling and action. A bit like the 2008 Prince of Persia (I recently picked that up for $3 in the bargain bin and was blown away).

  2. Johnathan:

    I've never played the Sim- games, and I know they are hugely popular, but I don't understand their appeal. I hope I don't offend, but they sound like training programs for the wannabe bureaucrats you (and I) rail against so often. Maybe I have a fundamental misunderstanding of the game play.

  3. Rick C:

    "City water tables can be drained in a matter of months, making a city unplayable -- one can avoid this only by putting their sewer plant right by their water supply."
    This is ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS given that there's a commercial running involving a guy saying he did just that.

  4. Michael Stack:

    If you like the way Bioshock infinite treats you as if you're in a novel, then you'll definitely want to play the first Bioshock. Stay away from the 2nd though - not a bad game, but not developed by Irrational, and nowhere near as powerful a story.

  5. obloodyhell:

    LOL, why don't you tell him to play System Shock... :-D

  6. obloodyhell:

    LOL, proof that God is a civil engineer:

    Only a CE would put a hazardous waste facility right next door to a playground. :-D

  7. obloodyhell:

    I've never played the City sims, but Civilization has always been pretty good -- especially the odd-numbered releases, but even the evens are ok.

  8. Invid:

    Fun simcity commentary

  9. irandom:

    I don't know how many Sims there are, but after seeing the BBQ baby and gal trying to have 100 kids I really want to play.

  10. Michael Stack:

    Ha, because the first Bioshock is a current-gen game, and I've never played System Shock. ;)